Relief efforts underway after Northwest Tennessee counties ravaged by deadly storms

Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 10:59 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 7:01 AM CST
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SAMBURG, Tenn. (WMC) - President Joe Biden has made an emergency declaration, making nine Tennessee counties eligible for federal assistance due to this weekend’s tornadoes.

Three people died in Northwest Tennessee and one is missing.

It’s a popular time at Reelfoot Lake in Lake County. It’s the start of duck hunting season, so cottages like the ones at Cypress Point were filled this weekend. But the resort was destroyed directly in the path of the storm.

Places in Lake and Obion counties suffered major destruction and suffered the worst.

Tony White, the owner of Cypress Point Resort, says clean-up is just beginning.

In the days following the tornado, crews searched the area for one person still unaccounted for. White says the search continues and he will not clear all the debris from his business completely until officials give him the word to do so.

State officials say a father and son died while visiting Reelfoot Lake. Another person died when the tornado hit the small town of Samburg in Obion County.

“Everything is demolished, but everyone is coming together and trying to help each other out,” Kevin Gupton said.

Gupton was in Samburg Tuesday, helping his boss’ family clean up.

Their work shed was ripped off the foundation, and the husband and wife who lived in the home nearby were found under the demolished home. They are now being hospitalized in Memphis.

“I was devastated when I came. Pictures don’t do it justice,” Gupton said.

Gupton has seen multiple communities devastated by these storms.

“I live about 10 minutes from Mayfield [Kentucky],” Gupton said.

As for the owners at Cypress Point, they didn’t want to speak on camera and they say they don’t know if they will rebuild.

Those in Northwest Tennessee know just how bad it got for some families. One family says it’s a miracle their 91-year-old loved one survived the storm.

“He was in his recliner watching the weather also,” Charles Ozment said. “[My wife] asked him to please get up and get to the bathroom. He was in that process when the roof exploded.”

Every wall of Ozment’s 91-year-old father-in-law, Marshall Barker’s, home is destroyed except the walls in the hallway. That’s where Barker was when the tornado hit his home. He was trying to get to the bathroom to seek shelter. His family says it’s a storm safety plan that saved his life.

However, the night of the storm is still hard for Ozment and his family to process.

“There’s a period in there of the not knowing,” Ozment said.

Right after the storm hit Samburg, family could not reach Barker. Then, they heard from his neighbor.

“Three gentlemen physically came in and got him out of the rubble and got him through all of this,” Ozment said. “He was able to get to the neighbors’ house and he called us and told us besides some cuts and bruises he was okay.”

Now, Barker is able to see what’s left of his home get cleaned up. Neighbors, family, colleagues, and strangers all came in to help.

One person in Barkers’ neighborhood died in the storm.

“You can see by the devastation around him that him being in that hallway most likely, no it definitely did, saved his life,” Ozment said.

For resources for storm survivors, as well as those looking to volunteer or donate to survivors, click here.

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